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Jewish Film Festival report: ‘For My Father’

November 24, 2009 – 6:17 pmOne Comment

By Keren Tuch

[Seen a good/bad movie at the Jewish Film Festival? Send us your kvetch/kvell and we’ll post it to the intertubes!]

It’s that time of year again, where I surrender my active lifestyle for sitting still for two hour blocks, empty my wallet and embrace the high quality selection of films that screen in Sydney and Melbourne for the Jewish Film Festival.

If I were to hear about a Hollywood film featuring a suicide bomber roaming the streets of New York, who, on the verge of detonating his shrapnel-filled belt, encountered some locals who challenged his thought process; I would assume it’s another one of those romantic action blockbusters to put on the wait-’till-it-comes-on-TV list. The film For My Father, directed by Dror Zahavi, did not take place in New York but in Israel, and besides a couple of minor stereotypes, seemed very authentic.

formyfatherTerek is a frustrated Palestinian who finds himself in a situation whereby the only solution he can foresee is to blow himself up to redeem his family’s honour. On the drive through the scenic Judean Hills to Tel Aviv, he appears tormented at the upcoming task ahead, yet resolute in his commitment. Once in Tel Aviv, he heads for the bustling shuk (market) and builds up the courage to do the deed, only to find the button doesn’t work.  He scrambles out of the shuk and meanders the back street alleys of Tel Aviv.  It is in this down trodden alley of Tel Aviv where he meets an elderly electrician and his wife who help him fix the detonator button, and an Israeli young woman who herself is marginalised by her Orthodox family.  Through these characters he develops a degree of compassion for the ‘enemy’ and a peek at the complexities that envelope their lives.  With mounting pressure from his comrades back in the West Bank, and a new found affection for a few Israelis, he is forced to decide what his next move will be.

This powerful film had me captivated from woe to go, and elicited my tear reflex a couple of times.  It is refreshing to see humanistic approaches to the age-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I had never before thought about the mental process that afflicts a suicide bomber in the days and minutes before their premature death.  Nor had I really imagined that a suicide bomber was a human being with positive emotions, a family and aspirations.

For My Father does not glorify terrorism, but it did force me to acknowledge my prejudices and recognise the human aspect of both sides of the story. Politics aside, we are all programmed with the same gamut of emotions.

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For My Father is screening in Melbourne tonight. Click here for details.

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